Work Life After Lockdown, Tobacco Dock Founder Patrick Donovan Shares His Predictions

Insight & Opinion

Patrick Donovan

Serial entrepreneur and hospitality goliath Patrick Donovan gives Guru his insight on what he thinks the world of work holds for us once work life and business reverts to some kind of normality…


Once the lockdown starts to ease and we’re all able to venture out of our homes and back into the outside world, the only thing we can predict with confidence is that things will be very different out there. Maybe not forever, although the environmentalists and social reformers might hope so, but certainly for a year or two.

We’ll all be more cautious about travelling, socialising and interacting with our fellow humans and we’ll certainly feel differently about how we engage with the world of work. Cramming ourselves into busy tube carriages, crowded lifts, bustling cafeterias and overcrowded Monday morning kick-start meetings will be even less attractive than it was before the world changed in March.

That’s not to say that now we’ve all mastered, or at least come to terms with, Zoom conference calls and virtual meetings we won’t be desperate to communicate one to one with our colleagues and customers, we just won’t want to do it in an uncomfortably congested place any more.

In fact, the whole concept of a daily foray into the ‘Congestion Zone’ in London or any other big city is pretty off-putting in the context of this pandemic, or the next, let alone the fact that we’ve now all been reminded how much more productive we can be when we’re not in back-to-back meetings all day.

The Future of Work…

So, what does that mean for the ways we’ll all be working in future? Here are my predictions, or at least observations, about what will matter to us once we’re all unlocked.

It costs up to £1,500 per month to put one employee at a desk in a smart, Central London office. But that desk will be increasingly empty in future because we’ll be working from home, out and about with customers or suppliers, communicating virtually with our teams. Large, permanent offices will become an unaffordable luxury even for big companies.

We’ve just learnt how circumstances can suddenly alter and, out of a clear blue sky, our world can turn upside down. Organisations will seek flexibility as well as cost savings. They won’t make long-term commitments to employees, suppliers or landlords. Short contracts will become the order of the day and they’ll look for cool, all-inclusive, flexi-workspaces at quarter of the monthly cost

Tobacco Docks
Tobacco Docks – Flexible Working

We’ll do all we can to avoid packing ourselves, like sardines, into a stuffy tube or overcrowded train, twice a day. Perhaps our small, energy-efficient cars aren’t so bad after all? So long as we don’t need to go into the congestion zone and parking is convenient and affordable, we’ll choose to lift-share direct to our offices or get on our bikes instead.

A New World of Work…

In the new world of work, we’ll see the end of the single office and even the permanent, private workspace will become a thing of the past. We’ll need the ability to work within fluid teams, or to set up project rooms or break-outs as the demands of our tasks change daily. Cool, flexible co-working environments will come to the fore, not just for tech start-ups or entrepreneurs who want to be near a ping-pong table, but even for large organisations that want their teams to be innovative and fleet of foot.

If we’re going to work from home for half the week in future, the odds are that we’ll be working very long days in the office when we do make the effort to get in. That means we’ll expect comfortable conditions, plenty of meeting rooms and networking spaces, easy access to wholesome food and drinks and even opportunities to keep active and fit without having to leave the building. Making our days in town as productive as possible.

If only there was a cool, flexible, affordable workspace location, just outside the congestion zone, served by cheap, secure car and bike parking, with its own café, well-being programme and community hub that was available on monthly contracts for teams of 1 to 100 at competitive monthly fees with no contract. If only